Description: The Miko of Disaster pits her flames against the poison of the Queen Cobra in an explosive match to decide which of them is too hot for tv.
As the top and bottom contenders in the second bracket, Constance Coalbridge and Daidouji Junko find themselves scheduled as the first match of their day. That means that their fight is happening much earlier than one of them would have preferred; after all, Constance normally prefers to still be in bed this early on a Sunday afternoon. It's not even three!
It also means that, while the Metro City Arena is steadily starting to fill up for the day, it hasn't yet reached capacity. Fans are still finding their way to their seats as the ringside crew make sure that all of the necessary preparations and precautions are in place. The usual assortment of 'improvised' weaponry has been insecurely stored under the apron (as is traditional for a professional wrestling venue). The building's fire safety system has been freshly tested, and, with both Junko and Hawksley scheduled to fight in the second bracket, a squad of fire brigadiers are manning the venue, with a firetruck parked at the ready outside just in case. There's even a transparent heat-resistant barrier between the frontmost seats and the ringside area.
None of this means that the attendees haven't all been made to sign waivers when purchasing their tickets. Unlike the first fighter on the card, the New Fighting Generation are diligent about covering their own backsides.
Speaking of whom, it's about time for her music to hit the speakers.
o/~ TONIGHT WE ARE VICTORIOUS o/~
o/~ CHAMPAGNE POURING OVER US o/~
o/~ ALL MY FRIENDS WERE GLORIOUS o/~
o/~ TONIGHT WE ARE VICTO-RI-OUUUSS o/~
Purple spotlights start to oscillate around the crowd as the music starts, the top of the entrance ramp filling with dry ice smoke as strobes flicker either side of the backstage portal. At first the hooded figure emerging from backstage is only visible in silhouette, but as the guitars start driving the pop-dance-party-punk anthem, Constance Coalbridge is lit up by a frontal spot, revealing her brand-new look as she poses with a hand on her hip, pushing the snake-patterned hood back from her head before tossing her hair.
The hood is attached to a fitted black vest that's currently zipped down the middle. Underneath it a black suit is partially visible, large patches of skin showing through cutouts along the sides. Over the undergarment, a pair of ridiculously tight and high-cut distressed acid-wash shorts can barely contain her dignity. However, her legs are arguably more dressed than usual, with a pair of black open-toe-and-heel mesh-topped over-knee stockings suspended from her thighs by a pair of black leather garters connected with metal heart loops. Her knees and lower legs are protected by segmented synthetic black-and-red shin guards of roughly the same length.
Meanwhile, her arms are covered by what look like a matching pair of gauntlets and elbow guards over black arm warmers. Somehow, the overall effect is to make her look both more flaunting and fierce at the same time than her usual wardrobe.
The word 'COCO' flashes in bright letters over a stylized cobra logo on the screen above as she starts sauntering her way down to the ring, blowing kisses, winking, and occasionally flipping birds to the crowd.
"And our first fighter is Constance Coalbridge! There were rumours that she was planning to try out a new look. Seems like the goal with her new outfit is to protect everything but her modesty," Tom comments from the announcers' table.
"Look, Tom. She's coming out to a song called 'Victorious.' She has literally no modesty to protect. And why should she? She hasn't lost a singles match since last spring. And besides, she definitely pulls off the look. I heard on her socials that none other than Angel helped her pick it out," Lou replies.
"I know she's a favourite of yours, Lou. And I see that Captain Morgan is feeling similarly confident in his little crown," Tom adds.
The binturong is, indeed, following along behind Coco as she descends the ramp, wearing what looks like a miniature replica of the royal crown of Britain. After sliding up under the bottom rope of the ring in almost serpentine fashion, Coco gets up and turns around, leaning between the top and middle ropes to give the bearcat a little wave and blown kiss before one of the NFG's animal handlers scoops him up to carry over to his viewing area.
Coco unzips her vest, revealing the chest-level window in the bodysuit underneath it, and takes a moment to limber up as her music finishes, stretching and showing off her ability to adopt various improbable poses in her attire (cheers yoga!) mostly for the crowd's benefit as she awaits her opponent's window of arrival.
For the first time since stepping into this bizarre tournament, Junko is nervous.
Her experiences with the NFG have been a dynamic roller coaster of emotional turmoil. At first she was bitter and resentful, convinced that her uncle had tossed her into this clown show solely for his own benefit. The prize pool is substantial and would go a long way towards funding his goal to reconnect her hidden village with the rest of the world. Moreover, getting the fiery tempered miko out of the village would relax a lot of the pressure being put on him by the terrified villagers who lived in constant fear of the possessed former scion.
In her heart she knows she shouldn't blame him for trying to keep the peace. She had isolated herself from the rest of the village as best she could but even that hadn't been enough to prevent further deaths. Still, after nearly five years of almost complete solitude with none save the twisted spirit of a corrupted god scratching to keep her company, it's hard not to feel a little resentment at the way she's been treated.
But the past couple of months had changed much. Her fateful encounter with the xian Rei Hazuki had revealed to her that Suzaku was far more insidious than she gave him credit for. It's likely that her intense self-loathing had been exploited by the demon, driving her to cut herself off from anyone and everything that might have served as a beacon in the darkness of her despair.
Burdened by the alluring possibility that there was yet potential for something resembling a return to a normal life, Junko again found herself struggling with her morals. Simply by allowing others to grow close to her she was putting their lives at risk. Was her own happiness worth being responsible for more death, even if there were those willing to take that chance? But, struggle as she might to come up with a good answer, the decision was made for her when fate chanced to send the perfect person to reach out to her.
For at least the tenth time since arriving at the venue Junko shyly peers out from behind the heavy curtain that separates her prep area from the long walkway leading to the arena. Having fought three times before in these public matches, the girl thought that she would be more prepared for this. But her mindset had been totally different back then, too annoyed when she fought Djamila to pay the crowd any mind and too furious at being pitted against monsters in her matches with the goblin and the man-cat to give them a second thought.
With Suzaku's influence as subdued as it's ever been, most of her attention is free to focus on other things. At the moment, she's boggling at the sheer size of the crowd that has gathered to witness this event. Hundreds, no thousands, of tiny little orange lights sit in neat rows around the central pit. There might be as many people here as live in the entirety of her village. Maybe more. Though she knows each of those orange blobs represents a person, she cannot help but conjure the mental image of countless spectral onibi all gathered about like ghostly eyes staring down at her.
"Art thou afraid, mortal?"
The question rumbles out at her from behind suddenly, her bovine bodyguard speaking up for the first time since their arrival. Junko's feet briefly leave the ground as she startles into a small hop. Thankfully she manages to retain enough dignity to keep from crying out in alarm but it's a near thing. The miko's wide-eyed stare quickly hardens into an annoyed scowl as she turns to face the minotaur, stomping one of her feet on the hard floor to express her displeasure at him. More so now than ever, with the hard edge of her furious temper slumbering quietly and taking the vast difference of their relative sizes into consideration, the gesture is more adorable than intimidating.
"I am not frightened, beast! I-It's just that..."
Her disdain quickly bleeds away as she tries to come up with good words to ward off the accusation only to realize that she is actually afraid. But it is not a fear of her skilled opponent or anxiety at performing in front of that massive crowd which grips her heart with unease. It is the demon that lies sleeping inside of her that fills her with dread - more specifically, what it might do when called upon in the heat of battle with her balance so disturbed.
When she first began engaging in these duels, there had been no effort to restrain herself. Half a decade of soul-crushing fury needed an outlet and she saw her matches as the perfect release valve. The results had been near catastrophic. Every single one of her fights had left dozens injured, some by flame, others by exploding debris. Consumed by the spirit of Suzaku's hate, she had paid little care to how she hurled about those corrupted flames. Now, she had the unfortunate luxury of clarity to weigh her down with guilt and concern.
Chevy had reassured her that lessons had been learned from her wanton destruction and measures were in place to protect the crowd. But without the use of her eyes, she can't be sure how effective those measures are or even what they'd done. A single errant blast of fire could endanger dozens in those packed bleachers.
Of far worse concern is the idea that her perfidious soulmate is simply pretending to be quelled and waiting for the perfect opportunity to lash out and inflict as much damage as possible. What better way to cause mass fear and despair than to burn helpless spectators to ash by the dozens? She almost wishes the demon would just return to its old ways and bombard her mind with visions of destruction and rage. Those, at least, she knows how to deal with. This not knowing what to expect is twisting her into a big knot of anxiety.
"Maybe... maybe it would be better if I just..."
The intercom mounted to the wall suddenly crackles, spewing forth a cacophonous din of what she has unfortunately come to recognize as modern 'music'. Junko's entire body goes stiff, her expression becoming one of sudden panic as she realizes what that means. No more time for hand-wringing. It's do or die now.
Hopefully, no one actually dies.
Swallowing hard, the miko squeezes her eyes shut and takes in a long slow breath. It's a lot less calming than she would like but after a few repetitions she's able to make her legs move again so that's a start. Coco's theme music steadily starts to dwindle as Panic at the Disco seamlessly shifts into the spangly jingles of traditionally inspired Japanese electronica. Gritting her teeth at the unholy combination of biwa and dubstep, the miko takes one final moment to glare at Zander and unleash some of her pent up frustration on the darkstalker.
"I am -not- afraid! Hmph!"
Junko emerges from behind her own curtain with a dark scowl on her face. Bursts of flame erupt from hidden nozzles along the catwalk as she goes, an expert display of pyrotechnics that makes it look as if the annoyed priestess is leaving a trail of destruction behind her as she approaches. Up on the screen, the girl's name appears in neon red letters above the stylized image of a phoenix. Apparently Chevy's efforts to keep people from snapping pictures of Junko's secret tattoo were for naught.
There is a brief moment of comedy as the miko blunders into the ropes surrounding the arena. Like most inanimate objects, the lack of heat to sense left her blind to their presence. There is a brief moment of embarrassment as she remembers someone mentioning something about ropes before. This must be what they meant. Trying not to acknowledge the color flushing her cheeks, Junko takes a few moments to feel out the elastic nature of the ring's exterior before finally managing to slip through and into the arena proper.
There are no theatrics on Junko's part as she moves to take up position opposite her opponent. She simply wanders over to what looks like a relatively close position and eyes Coco quietly. After a few moments, she surprises everyone by doing something unexpected - she bows. This gesture of respect would be the first that she's shown any opponent and the fiery miko has gained something of a reputation for her bad attitude and spicy temper.
"Hajimemashite, Coco-san. It is nice to make your aquaintance."
While all eyes in the audience had been focused on her, Constance had been happy to bask in the attention, blotting everything else in her mind out and letting the heightened sensations - whatever they may be - flood into her. In that state, impulses not exclusively her own had driven her to flaunt and taunt and amp up the atmosphere even further. She had been warned against allowing others to encroach on her sense of self by her psychically-adept mentor, but the sense of control - and when to lose it - has only been bolstered by her time with Angel, who, it seems, has become the devil on her shoulder. She's supposed to be avoiding attention and playing herself down, but a lack of oversight to rebel against in her teenage years has meant that it's instead Juri whose authority has become the foil for her new identity to flout.
As Junko's music starts to kick in, though, the mood in the arena shifts, and Coco can feel it.
No longer are raw excitement, titillation, and open revulsion the most palpable emotions flooding the ring. In their place are fear, anxiety, and the primal fight-or-flight instinct that rises in the amygdala. These she feels rolling off of both the audience and, perhaps, her opponent. The only constant is anticipation, which lingers even after Coco finds herself again amidst the rising dread, her Individuation cutting her off from outside influence.
That anticipation, it seems, is as much hers as anyone's.
Her heart steadies as she fixed her silver-eyed gaze on the miko opposite her. Then, she smiles, places her hands together, and bows forward, back slightly arched.
"Hajimemashite, Junko-chan! It's lovely to meet you, too."
Between poor pronunciation, over-familiar honorific and the exaggerated posture, it's hard to distinguish whether Coco is being subtly mocking or merely moderately misguided.
"You know, I should have known your reputation would be much worse than reality. I mean, I certainly know what it's like to be misunderstood."
TOM: "Well, this is certainly a more heartwarming display of respect than some of us anticipated between these two fighters."
LOU: "Sometimes it's oil and water. Sometimes it's oil and fire. And sometimes, it's oil and more oil."
TOM: "I did think Coco was looking extra shiny tonight."
And she is, but that's not particularly salient.
"So, shall we make a deal that we don't burn down the arena?" Coco says sweetly to Junko, before adding, "At least, not literally."
Somehow managing to find the camera that's panning in behind her over her shoulder, she gives it a wink.
A look of surprise washes over the miko's face at the returned greeting. She should probably start to expect that sort of thing now. Japanese culture, or at least some basic parts of it, seem to have propagated rather heavily throughout the West. Perhaps it's due to the wide variety of nationalities involved in these contests that everyone is getting exposed to foreign influences. She's certainly absorbed quite a few things that would never have been seen in her small little secluded village.
Her encounters with Chevy have fortunately tempered the girl's resistance to the horrible mangling of her native tongue and customs. She's pretty sure it isn't intentional and her own self-consciousness about how she speaks English makes her hesitant to say anything.
The mention of her bad reputation causes Junko to lower her eyes in shame and she shakes her head slowly.
"No, it is a reputation well deserved. My behavior has been..."
The girl trails off, contemplating her feelings on this matter. Her actions had been reprehensible but they were intentionally so. A combination of her supernaturally twisted disposition and the desire to drive everyone away had led her to act like a scoundrel. At the time it seemed like the best course of action to keep people safe from the threat she posed. Now, she trying to pursue a different path, one with the potential for positive change though it comes at great risk.
"...well," she says, after a few moments of silence. "Let's just say I have had a change of perspective."
Lifting her gaze, the miko offers a wan smile to the other girl at her request.
"Sadly, I have little control over the flames. I call and they answer, such is the limits of my ability to direct them."
How exactly one might 'burn down the arena' in a figurative sense escapes her understanding. It must be another of those strange Western idioms.
"A... friend of mine..." It still feels strange to use that word. "...told me that the organization has taken precautions against such a thing but... the details of this protection is something that I cannot see."
Junko lifts a hand and waves it back and forth in front of her face, her eyes remaining blankly focused dead ahead as she does so. Her blindness is a matter of record but there's no telling how much the other teams have been paying attention to a newcomer such as herself.
"Could you describe it for me, Coco-san? I would like to avoid harming any of the crowd if at all possible."
Coco takes a moment to stretch each of her legs in turn up so that her feet reach above her head as Junko is speaking. Presumably it isn't intended as an intimidation tactic; she surely can't have missed the fact that her opponent is otherswise-sighted, can she have? Once she's finished, she relaxes them back down to the ground and bounces on her heels.
"Well, to be honest, my rep is probably well-deserved, too. This sort of thing really does give you a bit of insight, doesn't it? I've had a change of perspective, too."
Of course, Coco's new perspective is that she should own her sexy alpha b-word status, ditch any sense of shame, and generally be a bit more veni vidi vici about it all. Not everyone on the Warrior's Road is taking the same journey, it would seem.
That doesn't mean that she can't be helpful when asked, though. She plants both hands back on her hips and cocks them to one side as she starts looking around at all of the measures that have been taken. She hadn't been paying that much attention to all of that nonsense, but now that Junko mentions it...
"...Oh, right! I was wondering why there were so many firefighters hanging around. I presumed it was some works do at the fire department or the Chippendales or something. So, there's loads of them about, and it looks like outside the ring they've got some plexiglass between us and the audience? Oh, maybe it's that glass they use in ovens."
The logical conclusion that places Coco therefore /inside/ the oven seems lost on the posh purple-ette.
"So, I suppose that if you make sure you don't lob any fireballs toward the audience at more than, say, a sixty degree arc, you /should/ be alright. And they've got hoses in case anything does catch light. So, looks like we're all good."
She cracks her knuckles and nods once, smiling.
TOM: "Did you know that baby oil isn't flammable, but it does catch fire around open flames?"
LOU: "Did you just look that up? It doesn't even make sense.
TOM: "I'm just saying, you shouldn't keep oiled babies around open flames."
LOU: "I wasn't planning on cooking any babies in the near or distant future, Tom, but thanks for sharing."
TOM: "Well, honestly, I wasn't expecting such a relaxed discourse between these two, and the mind does wander."
LOU: "Well, I don't think that Coco is anymore at risk of being set on fire than she would otherwise be under the circumstances. Which is to say, practically guaranteed.
A match official wearing what looks like a hazard suit steps into the ring, says something indistinct, gives two thumbs up, then quickly slides back out to retreat to a safe distance as the bell signals that the fight is underway!
COMBATSYS: Coco has started a fight here.
As impressively flexible as her opponent is, Junko's dead stare proves that she is either unimpressed by such things or can't see Coco's dedicated attempts to ensure the crowd gets a good look at every single inch of her exposed backside. She should hope for the latter since such an exposed target would make for an excellent fireball magnet. Well, it would if the miko's idea of 'fireball' wasn't 'torrential flood of raw power'. Aiming sort of becomes a moot point when your answer to 'where do I want to hit' is 'Yes'.
Fortunately for the cobra queen, Junko and Chevy have not had time to sit down and share idle gossip about people outside of their team, so she's more or less in the dark when it comes to Coco's reputation. Somehow she doubts it's on par with blowing up all of the arenas she's been scheduled to fight in but if someone else is overcoming their own personal problems then good for them.
"I am glad to hear it, Coco-san. We should always strive towards personal growth, even if it is something small."
A little trite but she doesn't know what else to say. It's been a long time since she had to make idle conversation with anyone so she's a bit rusty at it. The discussion quickly turns back to her question about the safety of the arena, fortunately.
Most of what Coco says regarding the counter-measures flies right over the poor village miko's head. She stares at the other girl owlishly, trying to hide her confusion.
Chippendales? Plexiglass? Ovens?! How on earth does one make a glass oven? Just trying to visualize that makes her head spin.
Fire fighters she can at least understand. So, there's people on standby with some kind of response ready if things go badly. Perhaps similar to the fire teams back at home. They probably have something a lot more impressive than a few dozen buckets and a well in this crazy modern world though.
"W-well... um, it sounds like everything should be alright then. That is comforting."
Coco's gesture seems to signal the referee that the two of them are ready to get started. Junko can't see the man's ridiculous outfit worn courtesy of her fire hazardous self or she might have felt a little more self-conscious. The bell saves her from any further need for her terrible attempts at conversation and Junko is more than happy to square up and get what is likely to be her last match over and done with. If what she remembers is right, this opponent has gone undefeated for many fights. No doubt it will be a far more challenging bout than any she's had thus far. She'll just have to start things off start.
"Prepare yourself, Coco-san! And, um, apologies in advance!"
And with that ominous final comment thrown in the fight has begun!
The temperature in the center of the arena suddenly spikes as the miko's irises start to glow. The crimson orbs of her dead eyes blaze to life like burning coals, swirling pools of orange and red color that mix together like molten iron. Scarlet flame erupts around the girl's hands engulfing the pale delicate skin with such eagerness that her own flesh starts to burn and blacken almost immediately.
Taking the initiative, Junko pulls her hands in tight at her side, each one cupped around the other. The neon flames roll inwards into her palms, condensing down into a marble sized glimmer of power suspended between them. Brilliant streams of bright red light flicker from between her splayed fingers as the power builds while twisted black tendrils of something foul and corrupt writhe and coil around her fingers and wrists like living things.
All of the meek friendliness evaporates from the miko's expression as she channels the raw power of Suzaku's fiery hate through her body. The budding psychic would easily be able to sense the overwhelming amount of raw emotional power being brought to bear. That isn't just some sort of chi-based flames that she's calling forth. There is a palpable sense of malevolence that wasn't there before, something that is both eager and hungry for the destruction gathering at her call.
Junko's lips peel back in an almost animalistic snarl of fury as she focuses that vileness into a single point. The pain of wielding the flames of an angry god is something that she has grown familiar with but never immunized against. Suzaku makes sure that every scorched nerve-ending and every inch of sensitive flesh seared into ruins by her use of his power will regenerate so that she can experience this agony anew every single time.
For all the dramatics involved, it takes only a couple of seconds for the miko to go through the motions. Her hands draw back, flame and light spring forth between her hands, and then with a wordless shout of fury that isn't entirely her own, this miko thrusts her hands forward at Coco with swift and violent intent.
What spills forth from that seed of blazing red can only be described as a deluge of fiery death. A solid beam of scarlet neon light five feet across and equally as tall erupts from Junko's hands like the main cannon of a futuristic battleship. A wave of heat dangerous enough to be deadly all on its own washes out in every direction, the air rippling like a mirage in the desert. The blast lances across the arena in a flash, slamming square into the Plexiglass barrier with enough force and heat to bow the dense barrier outwards as it starts to melt like candle wax.
COMBATSYS: Junko has joined the fight here.
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > //////////////////////////////]
Coco 0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0 Junko
COMBATSYS: Coco blocks Junko's Shakkahou.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > /////////////////////////// ]
Coco 0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0 Junko
An apology for the violence about to ensue? That's the sort of thing that Coco would have offered in her first few weeks in the competition. That's so sweet. Everyone's clearly got this Junko really wrong.
Coco gives a mirthful little giggle and a dismissive flutter of her fingers.
"Oh, ta, babes! No need, though. I'm sure it won't be any worse than what those lot have done, and I've yet to receive an apology off of any of -"
Perhaps she missed the first part of what Junko said. About preparing herself. She's also apparently forgotten about the bell.
TOM: "My God, that heat! I can feel it all the way from here!"
LOU: "Good grief! I'm just glad I'm wearing sunglasses!"
What Constance Coalbridge sometimes lacks in situational awareness she at least makes up for in self-preservation instinct. Her gauntleted forearms and one of her knees come up to protect her body and face as the wave of crimson heat comes hurtling in her direction, preventing the flame from striking her directly. The diverted burning wroth catches hold of elements of Coco's clothing as she strains to think cold thoughts, her psychosomatic body control doing its best but unable to cope with the reality of Junko's fire as well as it has against other sources of energy in the past. Feeling the hood of her vest start to grow warm, she rips the garment off and throws it to the mat before stamping on it whilst patting out her smouldering shorts. Smoke rises off of her armguards and kneeguard as she grimaces and grits her teeth.
"Okay, yes, I can see why you apologized," Coco concedes as her hands come back up in guard and she starts to close the gap between them, feet moving quickly across the ring floor. "In which case, I'm sorry, too!"
As she lunges forward to try and grab the miko by the shoulders, she levels her gaze on Junko's eyes. It would be the first chance she'd have to actually get a very close look. Fortunately for Coco, normal sight on her opponent's part isn't strictly necessary to establish the psychic link that she's trying to form with Junko - the symbolic gesture is sufficient for her serpentine Individuation to try and sink its metaphorical fangs in.
If she can manage to force the issue, she'll slam a Muay Thai knee up toward Junko's midsection to try and force her to double forward and create an opportunity for the purple-haired pugilist to spin around and swing a leg over Junko's neck, straddling her head and shoulders in a single swift motion. All going to plan, she would then wrench her hips around to force Junko into a spin while twisting her own head in the opposite direction, the empathic link imbuing Junko with the sense of turning counterclockwise at the same time as she would be sent corkscrewing in a clockwise direction with the release of Coco's legs.
It's a quick recipe for motion sickness, if it's not avoided.
COMBATSYS: Junko interrupts Singapore Sling from Coco with Hou-ou Shoten Ha.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > //////////////////////// ]
Coco 1/------=/=======|===----\-------\0 Junko
The blazing fiery beam fortunately lasts only a couple of seconds before fizzling out. Which proves to be a good thing both for Coco and the supposedly 'fire-proof' Plexiglass barrier. While the former does her best to pat out her smoking hot keister, a phrase which is a little more literal than she probably is used to at the moment, the glass can do naught but slowly melt into a pile of sticky hot polymer. So much for those defensive precautions.
Junko staggers as the power in her hands bleeds away, gasping in a sharp breath. Raw agony flows through her hands and forearms, both of which are burned black as charcoal from exposure to the corrupted energies. Even after wielding it so many times, it takes her a moment to push the pain away from the forefront of her mind and focus. Third-degree burns aren't really something you ever get used to.
Her attention sharpens as Coco recovers from the shock of her first exposure to Suzaku's deadly ire. The orange blob of heat that is her opponent comes rushing in and the miko turns to face her, her expression a barely restrained mask of rage.
It isn't that she's mad at the other girl for anything in particular. She's just mad. That's one of the downsides of being soul-bonded to an eternally pissed off god, it's really hard for her mortal mind to filter out all that rage. Even at the best of times, she's one or two wrong words away from losing her temper in spectacular fashion. In the heat of combat, she just doesn't have the time or energy to waste on keeping her emotions in check.
Unfortunately for Coco, she makes a major mistake in her first attempt to engage with the miko. As several other people have already discovered to their detriment, Junko's body is roughly the same temperature as a hot stove top when she's -calm-. While actively channeling Suzaku's power she might as well be a lump of molten iron. The grappler's hands sizzle like bacon being thrown on a hot grill as she makes a grab for the priestess, undoubtedly making her quickly reconsider the wisdom of that course of action.
But, whether her opponent attempts to recreate Ichika's foolish display of bravado and hang on despite the heat or takes the more prudent course of action and tries to retreat, her choice ultimately ends up being moot. Junko's fist erupts with fresh flames as she takes a single step forward to meet Coco's forward rush. Trailing scarlet red like a blazing comet, her charred knuckles whip upwards square into the bottom of the Brit's attractive jaw line in a furious display of martial prowess.
The uppercut itself isn't terribly impressive. If anything, the impact is surprisingly weak, almost pitifully so for someone who has stepped into a professional fighting ring. However, the pyroclastic maelstrom that explodes around the miko a moment later more than makes up for it. A literal tornado of wind and flame picks up Coco and hurls her skywards, spinning her around inside of its hellish funnel for a few moments before launching her at a sharp angle away from the miko.
"What are -you- apologizing for, gaijin? That pitiful attempt at an attack?!"
Slowly lowering her burning fist back to her side, Junko takes a menacing couple of steps towards her foe. Her lips twist into a snarl, brows furrowed in unnatural rage. The tips of her snowy hair start to glow yellow-orange like smoldering coals as she struggles to keep her corrupted power in check.
"I thought you were supposed to be good at this!"
Coco has fought the other few flame-wielding fighters in the NFG, and it's generally gone reasonably well for her before, which has likely led to an unhealthy disrespect for fiery threats. That disrespect goes up in smoke - along with much of her clothing - as she's sent screaming into a hellishly ascending spiral above the ring before crashing down to the canvas with a clattering THUD.
TOM: "Did you see that, Lou? I think she just blew Coco clean out of her boots!"
LOU: "And other things besides! Looks like that barricade might be in trouble, too!"
The fire crew are already aiming hoses at the molten sections of barrier in an attempt to regulate the temperature and keep them standing a little longer - an effort that's resulting in a cloud of steam obscuring that side of the ring.
Forcing herself to sit up slowly, Coco reaches up to touch the side of her face that still feels like it's burning before flinching and pulling her fingers away. The miko's words ring in her ears as she struggles up against the ropes, clenching her teeth.
'...thought you were supposed to be good...!'
Slowly, Coco starts to realize that she was very much mistaken in one of her beliefs.
Namely, that she was the most wicked bitch in the New Fighting Generation.
"Right. I suppose there's no smoke without fire after all. Literally," Coco says as she straightens up, her black bodysuit reduced to an off-the-shoulder design, her exposed shoulder and the side of her face singed from the point-blank pyrotechnics.
That burning sensation tells her that her record of avoiding major cosmetic damage might be roundly thwarted. She draws in a slow breath through her nostrils as she focuses her mind, willing herself to imagine that that feeling is just a bit of sun, like the time that she fell asleep on a chaise longue after a party in Greece. The pain ebbs to a dull buzz as Coco exhales, and her gloves come back up into a defensive guard, small bits of ash flaking off of them.
"Look, I never claimed to be good at this," she lies, having totally said that in her interview, as she edges out of the corner and starts to circle. "It just turns out pretty much everyone else has been worse at it than I am. Congratulations, though. You're the first person to fuck up my face."
Strangely, the terrible burns that had been visited upon her visage actually vaguely resemble a sunburn - perhaps a trick of the light, though it's likely lost on Junko.
"I'll see if I can't return the favour before we're finished, babes," she adds in a venomous hiss.
COMBATSYS: Coco gains composure.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > //////////////////////// ]
Coco 1/-------/=======|===----\-------\0 Junko
As convincing as she might appear in the moment, this is not the kind of person that Junko normally is. The meek and slightly awkward girl that had introduced herself before the fight started is a lot closer to the miko's true self than the hateful specter that glowers down at her singed and humbled foe now. Containing the unholy rage intertwined with her soul is a task that most people couldn't even fathom if they truly knew just how caustic and intense of a presence it is in her mind. That she can speak coherent sentences at all, twisted with hate and malice as they are, is a testament to the iron will of the Daidoji scion.
Seeing Coco hurled away like a piece of flaming debris ejected from an active volcano gives the irrationally angry girl pause. She cannot see the extent of the damage that has been caused by her viscous strikes. The horrible mangling of her opponent's fancy new outfit of which she had be so proud to put on display for her fans goes unnoticed by those blind eyes. But she can sense the heat still clinging to the Brit's body from the intense burns and hear the shift in tone as the other girl's friendly demeanor quickly evaporates.
A wave of regret sweeps through Junko at the sound of that acidic threat. She had been hesitant to wield her powers against another human being again, knowing full well the sort of catastrophic damage that Suzaku's flame could inflict, not just on flesh but on the spirit. That kind of hatred is a force all on its own, contagious and eager to drag others down into the depths of mindless fury. No doubt being half-cooked is enough to make anyone mad already but that supernatural corruption would do nothing but amplify those feelings.
The hesitation crumbles away like ash in the face of Coco's fury. Though she is not a psychic herself, Suzaku's malignant presence acts as a sort of beacon for hatred and malice. It feeds upon the girl's anger, reveling in the knowledge that it had inflicted pain and suffering upon her, and that in turn only makes it harder for Junko to maintain her sense of self.
"Really?" The Japanese girl's lips twist into a mocking smirk as she regards Coco without fear, resting one of her badly burned hands on her hip while the other flippantly brushes through her snowy lockes. "Could have fooled me."
Of course, Junko wouldn't be able to tell one way or the other, blind as she is. But in the heat of the moment, Coco might not notice that discrepancy.
The fleeting bit of levity fades from the miko's voice and expression as she bares her teeth in another aggressive snarl. Her body shifts into an offensive battle stance, her martial training not forgotten even in the depths of her furious trance.
"Let us see what else I can 'fuck up'!"
A slight bend at the knees as she coils power into her legs is the only warning Coco gets before the possessed priestess takes the fight to her. Lunging forward like a crouched predator, Junko's leg snaps up as she draws near tracing an arc through the air that seems a fair bit shy of actually making contact with her target. The reason for that becomes evident a moment later as a pyre of scarlet flame erupts around her foot arcing outwards across the remaining distance. The miko's body pivots with the motion and she gracefully swaps legs, sending the other whipping around in a similar fashion to unleash a second wave of flame at Coco.
COMBATSYS: Junko successfully hits Coco with Kakyaku Renge.
-* CRITICAL HIT! *-
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > ////////////////////// ]
Coco 1/--=====/=======|======-\-------\0 Junko
Coco's silver eyes strain to focus and follow Junko's movements as the miko lunges through the haze of heat rising off of the ring. It's not just the visual distortion or the screaming of the crowd or the calefaction of the arena that makes tracking her foe a challenge - the aura of anger rolling off of Junko is as overwhelming to her sixth sense as the rest of her senses combined, even with her Individuation attempting to stand sentinel against the intrusion of her psyche. All work together to build toward a fever pitch as the miko sweeps her leg up toward Coco to launch the wave of fire in her direction. She brings her arms up to shield her face, tries to focus her will into that reshaping of reality that saved her when a dragon had breathed fire over her skin, miraculously leaving her unharmed.
But miracles are miraculous for their rarety. This time, her will falters, this demonic flame proving anathema to her. The flame still purges cloth as easily as before, her stockings and armwarmers and shorts rapidly reduced to cinders that fly away like fireflies as the first wave hits, but the fire scorches flesh just as readily. The second wave is even more devastating, igniting the remains of the bodysuit that she wears underneath the other accoutrements. She falls down with a piercing cry as her superheated armguards start to burn, wrenching them off of the opposing hands with fingers twisting in pain. Rolling over on instinct to extinguish the fire, she ends up on her knees, gasping for air as she cradles herself. Modesty only remains in the context of patches of fabric and ash seared against skin.
Part of her wants to give up here and now. The relentless torment has been far worse than anything she's endured in the past year of fighting, and she hasn't even landed a single hit on the demonic miko. She feels fear gripping her heart, causing it to pound out of control in her chest. After a moment, though, she pushes the fear back, looks at it in her mind's eye, realizes it's not her own. It's the fear of thousands of fighting fans, fear on her behalf, fear for their own safety. Her own fear is a drop in that sea; small, easily swallowed.
She might not be able to win this, but she'll be damned if she doesn't at least make this thing in front of her hurt, at least just a little bit.
Her silver eyes finally find their focus as they lock on Junko. She's not just trying to meet the blind warrior-maiden's gaze - she's trying to challenge that presence she senses behind the eyes to a staring contest, flipping the metaphorical bird to Nietzche in her audacity. Rising up to a half-crouch, swaying ever-so-slightly like a serpent, she demands a psychic audience with whoever is in charge of the miko's mind.
Where before she's attempted to use this probing psychic invasion to induce animal fear in her foes, the pain of isolation or even, at its darkest, a cold and lonely demise, instead, she endeavours to force another paralyzing sensation:
The feeling of absolutely nothing pressing against the walls of the mind, all hungers sated, an endless sea rolling in slowly ahead, a cool breeze on a warm day.
Should demon or maiden fall into the trap, though, Junko may find herself unready for what follows - the cobra's metaphysical fangs closing down as Coco leaps forward from her coiled crouch, her heel descending in a scything arc of devastation toward Junko's head!
COMBATSYS: Coco successfully hits Junko with #Cobra's Fang#.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\ < > ////////// ]
Coco 0/-------/-------|=======\======-\1 Junko
The miko's eyes are twin pools of seething fire and molten fury, alight with the haunting glow of inhuman power. There is no fear to be found in those depths, nor traces of compassion or mercy. As she is now, Junko is an avatar of rage and hate, her soul twisted into something dark and malevolent by the wicked god co-habitating within upon whom she relies to wield such deadly flames.
Were she able to control herself properly, she would never chose to unleash this corruption upon others solely for the sake of entertainment. Five excruciating years of torment have made her all too aware of the suffering that accompanies their fel touch. But her terrible mistake those many years ago had robbed her of even the strength to stand on her own two feet without aid, much less engage in a contest of martial skill. As much as she despises the creature responsible for all of her woes, she has little choice but to lean upon its power to survive.
Not that Suzaku gives her much choice in the matter. The demon god's influence has been a constant thorn in the back of her mind, like an old dog scratching at the door, whining to be let inside. Though that metaphor paints the twisted beast in a far too flattering light. It is more akin to a rabid wolf angrily snarling and chewing at the flimsy barrier that separates it from a helpless child. Only the magic of the talismans upon her body and her iron-clad will keep the ancient monster from overwhelming her completely and enacting its terrible promise of vengeance upon the world.
As such, when Coco turns her third eye upon the source of that sinister aura she finds far more than she could ever have anticipated. A pressure unlike anything she has ever experienced grips her mind as she delves into the miko's psyche, holding her fast like the talons of some great deadly beast. The full unmitigated attention of a being so far beyond her mortal comprehension that she can but interpret it as a great blinding ball of fiery rage makes contact with Coco's mind for the briefest of instants. It looks at her with idle interest, curious as to what manner of insect has the audacity to challenge its dominion over the soul it currently inhabits.
And then it turns away, unimpressed. The budding psychic's influence is ejected from Junko's mind with the ease of a freight train brushing a bit of debris off its tracks. There is no effort involved, it simply casts her aside by sheer force of mass. It doesn't even bother to bolster the power of its host nor shield her against the psychic backlash of the brief entangling of wills. This creature has no power to threaten it nor the girl, not in any permanent way. What does it care if she suffers? Such is her purpose.
Junko staggers briefly as Suzaku rouses long enough to brush Coco's attempt to wield her mind trickery aside, a wave of vertigo almost making her pitch sideways. Though her opponent was unsuccessful in the manner she had intended, the miko's uncaring patron's interference provides the window of opportunity she needed anyways.
Before she can even regain her bearings, Coco's devastating strike comes crashing down like a hammer onto an anvil. While she might be frustratingly stubborn, Junko's head proves to be a fair bit softer than a block of iron, much to her detriment. The kick drives her face-first into the scorched surface of the arena's mat with a resounding crack. The fragile miko hits the deck without even an attempt made to defend herself or soften the impact, earning a collective audible wince from the audience.
For several silent seconds, it looks as if the fight might have just been ended in a single decisive blow. Junko lies motionlessly sprawled out on her front, her still smoldering hair fanned out over her body like a shroud. But, just when the commentators might be ready to start throwing in the towel, the miko suddenly convulses with a violent spasm.
Groaning like someone who's just been roused from sleep several hours too early, Junko slowly starts to peel herself off the floor. Though she stumbles drunkenly, clearly disoriented from the blow to her head, the girl stubbornly forces herself back to her feet. When her head finally lifts, her face turning towards Coco once again, the priestess looks like something out of a bad horror movie. Blood is smeared over the lower half of her face, her nose obviously broken from being violently introduced to the ground. One eye is swollen shut, darkened by a heavy bruise that encompasses the entirety of her cheek and temple.
The miko regards Coco with a look of confusion at first but that changes quickly enough back into unhinged fury as her senses start to return. Gritting her teeth hard enough that the audience can probably hear it, the girl reaches up and grabs her mangled nose with charred fingers. A stomach churning crack fills the arena as she snaps the cartilage back into place, staggering hard enough to fall to one knee from the shock and pain.
Junko's voice is low and soft, almost a whisper as she breathes heavily.
...your filthy... claws..."
The girl once more struggles to rise to her feet, swaying like a drunk trying to keep their balance on the desk of a tossing ship.
"OUT OF MY HEAD!"
The outburst of sudden furious sound is punctuated by a blazing eruption as scarlet fire once more engulfs Junko's hands. She rushes forward in a barely coordinated fashion, struggling to keep on target but determined to carry on the fight. More a fury-fueled berserker than a martial artist at this point, the girl bellows a wordless challenge as she descends on her opponent.
At the last moment, the miko's hands thrust forward like twin battering rams as she closes the distance. Again, the impact of those palm strikes would be pitiful compared to the sort of blows any other seasoned fighter could deliver. Again, the true threat makes itself known in spectacularly pyroclastic fashion as the red and black fire dancing around her arms rushes forward to detonate with enough explosive force and heat to violently rattle the protective wall of glass at the edges of the arena.
COMBATSYS: Coco blocks Junko's Rengoku Sougekishou.
[ \\\\\\\\\\ < > //////// ]
Coco 0/-------/------<|=======\=======\1 Junko
Coco, for her own part, lands lightly on the scarred surface of the mat after kicking off of the miko's crown, more flakes of ashen fabric falling like snow away from her figure as she does so. Perhaps it's a mercy for the censors at this point that so much smoke and steam fill the arena floor; the teen is practically a silhouette against the smog from most angles, though a few ambitious cam-drone operators manage to find some tasteful enough angles to keep the action on-screen.
TOM: "This has got to be one of our most shocking matches to date. It looked like we were on course for a perfect match against the number two seed in Coco, but one clean kick later and things are almost looking even."
LOU: "What I'm most shocked about is that it turns out Coco doesn't have any tattoos. I figured anyone who's spent that many nights partying in Thailand would definitely have woken up with some regrettable body art."
TOM: "Speaking from experience, Lou?"
LOU: "You promised you wouldn't bring that tat up on broadcast, Tom."
The sound of Junko's voice as she lets out her outburst causes Coco to smirk, lips shifting and dislodging some of the soot that covers her face.
"Oh, sure. It's fine to blast half my clothes off with fiery hell," Coco generously underestimates (at least her knees are still covered), "but a little softcore hypnosis and suddenly -I'm- the bad guy."
As Junko frenzies toward her with fiery hands at the ready, Coco suddenly shifts into swift action, twisting away from the brunt of the attack while bringing one knee up so that the shin guard still clinging to it can catch much of the blaze. Her arms assist in the defense, subtle psychic reinforcement dampening the deadly blaze so that, though it leaves her own hands black with the fine ash of what remained from her armwarmers, the skin at least holds out, resisting being stripped to the bone. The heat that slips around her guard blasts away much of what remains of the fabric burnt to her skin, leaving scorch marks on her sides as a ringpost behind her explodes outright, sundering the ropes and leaving the flaming cords whipping dangerously to and fro like the limbs of a flailing octopus.
Her defensive capabilities pushed to the human limit - and beyond - she would appear completely exposed, open to whatever the monstrous miko might throw at her next. But in spite of the apocalyptic circumstances, Coco, nearly-cooked but still standing at ground zero and arm's reach of the miko, cracks a smile.
"Come on, take another look," she purrs as she leans forward, seemingly flaunting the form of her practically-bare bust for the benefit of... the girl who is still, quite clearly, blind?
"Don't be shy."
Even to the practically-sightless warrior, there's something mesmerizing in the movement, perhaps an unusual shift in the hues of the blob of heat, as the psychic pressure attempts to draw Junko's gaze into Coco's cleavage. It's not just the miko that she's taunting, though.
And as she puts on the seconds-long show, Coco's arm suddenly slithers out, aiming to grab a handful of white hair - before, if she has her way, yanking down on Junko's head while simultaneously spiking her knee up high with enough force to sunder the armour that barely clings to it should it connect with the miko's chin with the intended brutality.
COMBATSYS: Coco successfully hits Junko with Tequila Sunrise.
>>> Punitive Hit!!! <<<
[ \\\\\\\\ < > ]
Coco 0/-------/----===|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2 Junko
To be fair, most of the reason she's upset with Coco for digging around in her noodle is because she doesn't want the inexperienced psychic to upset her roommate. Suzaku has been uncharacteristically silent for quite some time now and, while this behavior is both extremely suspicious and somewhat disturbing, it's a hell of a lot more preferable to the angry god actively interfering in her life. Besides, there's no telling what sort of effect poking around in her mind might have on someone who isn't expecting to deal with something that malevolent and powerful.
So yeah, she's trying to look out for Coco! She's just... really bad at explaining things in a calm and rational manner at the moment!
Unleashing the deadly blasts of flame seem to be having an almost equally detrimental effect on the miko at this point. Her hands are burnt down to little more than skeletal husks in the aftermath of her latest explosive assault, what little flesh that remains melted into misshapen lumps like wax. Even her feet suffered from the brief exposure to those noxious flames, her shoes burnt to ash leaving her feet bare and scorched.
Between the toll her own powers have wrought upon her and the crushing concussion still scrambling her senses the miko doesn't seem to be in much shape to keep fighting, despite her insistence on pursuing the conflict further. Coco hardly need have bothered with her seductive display of power and not just because her opponent is blind. Junko recoils backwards from the explosive blast, her arms dropping down to her sides as her shoulders slump. She wobbles unsteadily, clearly struggling, wordless noises of pain and disorientation spilling from her bloody lips.
When the other girl calls to her, Junko's head lifts slowly to regard the lurid display, her eyes glossy and unfocused. The second psychic invasion doesn't even warrant Suzaku's attention apparently. The miko's unprotected and befuddled mind is briefly ensnared, her dead gaze shifting towards something she has no means to appreciate even if she were into that sort of thing.
The sucker punch, if you can even call it that considering the state of its target, takes Junko completely off guard. Knee guard slams into chin with unpleasant amounts of force, shattering the scorched pad apart dramatically. Blood sprays from the miko's mouth as her head snaps backwards, her arms flailing uselessly as she topples backwards onto the floor.
Ironically, the impact seems to snap the girl out of her daze rather than drive her deeper into concussed confusion. The miko hits the ground hard and rolls, flopping weakly onto her stomach several feet away. It takes her another few seconds to push her head up from the floor but, inch by inch, she doggedly pulls her knees up underneath herself and heaves herself back to her feet.
At this point, it's a wonder she can still stand much less put up anything resembling a fight. Battered and bruised, the foreign girl turns her fiery gaze on Coco for what might be the last time in this battle. Her lips pull back but this time it isn't to unleash another ferocious snarl at the Brit. Instead, she grins, an altogether grim sight considering the state she's in. A strained almost delirious chuckle sputters out of her in a wet gurgle as she coughs up another mouthful of dark blood.
"If I were you," she whispers, her head tilting back to stare up at the ceiling with a resigned look. "I would start running..."
Coco gets about two seconds to contemplate that warning and whether or not she should take it seriously before bad things start to happen.
The swirling red-orange glow in the miko's eyes erupts in both intensity and size, the entirety of her eye-sockets filling with scarlet flame. Her hair catches fire like a bunch of silken curtains, the snowy white lockes turning a brilliant orange. A wave of heat washes out from the avatar of corrupted flame, intense enough to burn all on its own, but nothing more than the precursor to what comes next.
Junko's entire body is consumed in a pyre of flickering red fire, disappearing into a roaring bonfire of unholy power. The flames build in size and intensity for a few brief moments before exploding in all directions, a neon scarlet inferno that spreads out in a spherical blast that consumes the entirety of the arena.
COMBATSYS: Junko has reached second wind!
[ \\\\\\\\ < > /////// ]
Coco 0/-------/----===|>>>>>>>\-------\0 Junko
COMBATSYS: Coco instinctively blocks Junko's Suzaku no Gekido.
[ \\\\\ < > /////// ]
Coco 0/-------/--=====|>>>>>>>\-------\0 Junko
With the pieces of her protector falling off of one of her legs, Coco kicks the other one (now only hanging tenuously by a single frayed strap anyway) off as Junko tumbles to the ground, re-establishing the symmetry of her legwear. She bends down to rest her hands on her thighs, running one down to the freshly-weaponized knee and groaning at the ache within her cartilage. She closes her eyes, lowering her head to seek some less-smoke-filled air to suck through her nostrils, uncaring of what anyone in the audience may be seeing... and ignorant of the fact that her opponent is rising up behind her until the words reach her ears.
'If I were you, I would start running...'
Silver eyes snap open and turn to look over her shoulder. She doesn't have time to say anything before she can feel the heat rising once again. Acting out of pure self-preservation, she drops down to her knees, throwing both arms over her head to protect herself as she buries her face against her knees. Most of the blast passes above her head, but the flames roaring over her body rapidly blacken her limbs as she relies on them to protect the rest of herself. The ring starts to burn away beneath their feet, collapsing into rubble, splintered black planks falling atop the red-hot metal struts and chairs and pipes and... sledgehammers...?... Whatever the purpose of the implements may have been before, they are almost certainly no longer fit for anything beyond salvage scrap by the time that the ring has finished falling apart into a smouldering wreckage of ash and metal.
TOM: "Okay, everyone! Let's just stay calm! Fortunately, it seems that there have been no casualties, apart from our fighters, who are currently unaccounted for..."
LOU: "Eh, I think it might be best to go ahead and start following the fire exit instructions in an orderly manner, just in case."
Water starts falling down from above.
Has the blast from Junko literally blown the roof off of the arena, inviting a downpour from the heavens to cleanse the blight of this unholy battle?
No, but the sprinkler system has definitely been set off, and with the barriers in dire straits, the fire brigade are erring on the side of caution and adding their own arcs of water to try and calm the flames before they can rage outward any further.
Amidst this blinding mix of water and steam and fire and smoke and ash, it's almost impossible to make out what's become of the two fighters.
"Should have known I was in a horror film."
Suddenly, the hellish mist is parted to reveal a blackened foot snapping violently toward the other enshrouded figure, disappearing before striking out again, and again. All that can be seen from outside are the glimpses of silhouettes warping and lit by flickering firelight within the shifting hazy hell, almost appearing as if the one is only standing in the stance of a single delivered kick. But in touching distance, the reality is clear: dozens of kicks delivered in rapid succession at legs, body and head, desperately and ferociously attempting to batter the miko into oblivion.
COMBATSYS: Junko blocks Coco's L.I.T..
[ \\\\\ < > //// ]
Coco 0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>------\1 Junko
Amidst the obscuring smoke and sizzling steam two enshrouded figures clash in a contest that has gone from organized entertainment to panicked chaos. Scarlet flames burn with the same determined persistence as their creator, patches of neon destruction that flicker and dance among the fog with almost sentient glee as they consume the remains of the arena. The cheers of the crowd have been replaced with screams of primal terror as the fear of being caught in this wild conflagration replaces all interest in observing the outcome of this insane conflict.
But, for the two fighters, all that remains is a desire to see this through to the end. The risk of death or maiming is something that comes with the territory when one chooses to walk the path of the warrior. Though such things are rare in modern times, with the blood sports of olde being a thing of the past, there is always the chance for something to go horribly wrong when the contestants wield such forces of destruction.
For Junko, death has long since ceased to hold any fear for her. While, the twisted mockery of the ancient symbol of prosperity that resides within her has been turned into an unholy beacon for fury and malice, it yet retains all of its other properties as well. Strength. Courage. Power. Fire. And, most notably, rebirth. Whatever harm befalls her, whatever pain she must endure, the miko is fully aware that she will survive it.
Coco's first deadly kick at the shrouded figure cloaked in smoke finds purchase but it is not the satisfying thud of landing a solid hit against soft squishy vitals. Her bare foot collides with something hard and thin, something that moves to push her strike aside at the last moment divesting it of most of its force. Each subsequent kick in the flurry she unleashes suffers the safe fate, impacting against something firm and unyielding while being subtly shoved off course by quick circular motions that prevent her from ever landing a substantial strike.
Within the safety of the obscuring mist, Junko's body moves with renewed vigor. While she would never recommend Suzaku-brand healing to anyone sane, it's hard to argue against its potency. The ruined black flesh of her hands has regenerated almost well enough that they don't look like a pair of burnt skeletal Halloween decorations any more. Her body moves in reaction to shifts of the orange blob that stands before her, intercepting each kick with practiced skill and empowered focus.
While her opponent is almost certainly struggling with the reduced visibility, in the land of the blind, the, uh, heat-vision using miko is king? Ironically, Coco's choice to use her legs to strike out at Junko makes her attacks all that easier to defend against as it creates a more distinct shift in movement for her to detect. Kick after kick is deflected and while the impacts are powerful enough to rattle and bruise, they aren't enough to put the semi-regenerated phoenix priestess back down yet.
As a final high kick is aimed at her head, the miko suddenly shifts her tactics and ducks, dropping low to the ground and leaving nothing for Coco to rebound off of in order to recover her balance. Hoping to take advantage of this brief window, Junko grins to herself behind the veil of her impromptu smokescreen and calls upon the flames once again.
A brilliant scarlet comet arcs out of the dark fog, tracing a wide arc towards the skyclad Brit's upper body as the miko's foot lashes out like a scythe. A second spinning kick follows the first as Junko emerges from the smoke, her body suspended in midair as she whirls into a fiery pinwheel. Over and over she spins, dozen or more rotations driving her forward through the air like a helicopter, each pass bringing another blazing neon strike hammering towards her foe to drive her back.
Getting caught up in that whirlwind assault would lift Coco bodily into the air, suspending her helplessly in the intense centrifugal force of the supernatural power. With each spin both girls rise a little higher into the air, traveling upwards on a diagonal arc whose apex brings with it a final devastating strike. With the last of her momentum, Junko pivots her hips to lift one bare foot high into the air and drops it down atop Coco's head, swinging her heel like a hammer at the Brit in mimickry of the crushing blow that she herself had suffered to send her plummeting into the ruins of the floor and all the nasty things that were hidden beneath it.
COMBATSYS: Junko successfully hits Coco with Gouka Senpukyaku.
- Power hit! -
[ < > // ]
Coco 0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0 Junko
Her salvo finally spent, Coco is left standing on one leg in the sweltering ruins, covered in nothing but sweat and ash and panting for the scant oxygen that the oppressive atmosphere in the arena provides. She can't help but drop her foot and double over after the exertion, once again struggling to inhale something she can breathe amongst the blackening rain. This isn't the sort of environment that the heiress has had to acquaint herself with in the past. Well, maybe that one time she visited one of her family's factories in southeast Asia on a flight of fancy, actually.
Coughing and choking, Coco can only barely perceive the shifting in the smoke that foretells of the coming danger. Her instincts kick in at the last moment as the flame approaches, but as she backpedals and brings her arms up, her foot steps on a red-hot piece of metal that's been protected from the falling water so far. She only has time to flinch and cry out before the sound is cut short by the whirling arc of destruction crashing into her full force. The tornado of kicks carries her up and along, fire engulfing her, until she's finally driven back down to the ground with the last kick, disappearing into the haze before her return to Earth is announced with a sickening crash.
The sound would seem to carry with it the finality of the purple-haired fighter's fate. Once Junko lands, though, the miko would be on the receiving end of her own horror movie moment, the unclear roles of Monster and Final Girl shifting one last time as the swaying silhouette of Coco lurches out of the smokescreen to try and grab hold of her shoulders and fix her with a glossy silver gaze. Seeming intent on delivering the same knee strike she'd first attempted against Junko's midsection, this time, the attack is a feint, meant to drop Junko's guard down so that Coco can trap her arm with one hand, transition to her side and send an elbow over said arm and into her face. If that should work, she'd then use her connection to share the sensation as she'd sideswipe her hips into the miko's middle as hard as she can, creating the illusion of an impact twice as hard as its reality.
But her movements are sluggish, and it's all that Coco has left to give before she'd fall to the floor, her exposed body left in a dreadful state amidst the carnage.
COMBATSYS: Coco can no longer fight.
[ \\ <
COMBATSYS: Junko interrupts Tiki Bongo from Coco with Mugen Ranbu.
[ \ <
The problem with trying to face down a monster in its own lair is that the monster has a lot more experience at being a monster and enjoys the perks of its inhuman power.
While Coco chokes and gasps for air, the miko of flames seems completely at one with her element amongst the ash and smoke. Once again the obscuring clouds prove no hindrance to Junko as her opponent struggles to launch a final counter offensive. The attempt at an ambush is both clumsy and obvious to the girl's heat-based vision for while the smoke is warm enough to distort her senses it isn't enough to completely hide such a large mass of warmth moving at unnatural speeds.
The Brit emerges from the blinding haze only to find that her victim is already lunging towards her. Junko bears the older girl to the ground with a wild tackle that sends her crashing flat on her back into the ruined floor. Mounting herself atop the teenager's waist, the miko raises one of her cracked and blackened fists and brings it slamming down in a fire-clad punch square into Coco's face.
"How does it feel?!"
Another tiny fist hammers into the pinned girl's nose producing a small explosion as the corrupted flames burst like a mini-grenade on impact.
"I warned you!"
Another punch follows and then another, hellish flame and bony knuckles each leaving their impacts on soft unprotected flesh. With every strike the blow black from the scorching fire burns away bits of Junko's shirt. Her clothing was already almost as ruined as her flesh by the deadly power, large patches missing from both her poofy hakama and the fancy white shirt - well, formerly white shirt. What little remains is all but stained black with burns and smeared ash and even that is being steadily chipped away by the miko's unrestrained anger.
"Why didn't you run?!"
Beneath the tatters of her garment and the cloak of her blazing orange hair, both the warding seals and the tattoo of Suzaku glow with ominous light. The beautiful array of colors that make up the demon bird's plumage seem more vibrant, more real somehow, as the tainted hatred flows freely through its avatar. Meanwhile, the overlapping network of restraining charms seem to be struggling to contain the evil god, their edges growing ever darker and charred with each thrown punch.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU LISTEN?!"
When Chevy had suggested that the NFG would have defensive measures in place to protect the audience... well. That was a bit of a fib, as Chevy didn't really -know- that at the time. Sadly, it wasn't until the incineration of the Dead Squirrel that the warning about Junko's flames was treated as anything but overblown hyperbole. Better late than never, though!
It's those defensive barriers that had allowed Chevy to enjoy the drama of this one fight in particular. As soon as she'd seen the fight card, she'd made plans to attend -- there's no way she would have wanted to miss a fight between Team Thunder's pyrokinetic and her self-declared rival. And so far, she's been happy to watch, two rows up from ringside. Sure -- there was the small matter of the plastic barriers melting, but that was off on a -different- side of the ring, and firefighters seemed to have that thing contained anyway. The whole match has been a nailbiter in all seriousness -- each fighter wearing down the other in seemingly equal measure.
Now, though. With the battle at a fever pitch, Chevy and the up-close audience are... honestly, having a bit more trouble trying to see through the smoke and haze. And with the presence of firefighters, she's comfortable to live in the moment, as her mother had advised -- letting herself get caught up in the tides as they vacillate between Coco and Junko. But once she sees the Brit pinned, unable to fight back...
Chevy begins to realize how -hot- it's gotten, even this far out. She's sweating through every pore, her Led Zeppelin concert shirt practically soaked. Drawing in her breath, she looks to the crowd around her -- sweating, similarly, and wiping at their brows.
Chevy clasps her hands together.
And a moment later, the smoke around her begins to dissipate. Frost crystals form on the plastic barrier in front of her: not enough to obscure the vision, just... color it.
She keeps her hands clasped together as she watches the fight -- keeping silent just a bit longer.
It's okay if Coco gets to live in the moment too, for right now.
Amidst the screaming spectators stands Hawksley Moore, risen from his seat and staring in horror at the spectacle that he's just observed. He's been here the whole time that the brual battle has been underway, accompanying Coco to her match with the intention of sticking around to watch all three of the fights before his own, which is scheduled to finish off the second bracket of the tournament.
Right now, he's no longer sure any other matches will be able to take place, given the state of The Arena. Smoke fills the air, the sound of scared sobbing can be heard and an angry amber glow obstructs the Irishman from seeing Coco more clearly. He's going to have to move in closer.
He pushes past the few fighting fans that remain, almost colliding with the commentator's desk in his eagerness to reach the fallen Frost fighter. "Sorry, lads" he calls out to the cowering Tom and Lou, not stopping to see if his apology was accepted.
In his time at The Thunderdome, Ichika had warned him about how dangerous Junko was. He didn't doubt the schoolgirl's concerns but seeing the miko performing her ferocious and fiery fighting style in the flesh is something else. Of course he is a practioner of fire chi himself but the teenager leaves him feeling his own flames are rather tame.
Hawksley glances the familiar form of Chevy in the crowd but he doesn't stop to engage with her, he's too hellbent on reaching the ring. By the time he does, Junko is screaming "WHY DIDN'T YOU LISTEN?!" at the prone purple haired posh girl.
Rapidly climbing over the ropes, the Blaze brawler bends down to check on his girlfriend. He can already see what a state she's been left in and he has to stop himself from displaying the panic he feels. "Coco Pops?" he questions, trying to see if he can get any response. "I'm here and the medical team are on the way. You're gonna get the help you need."
Hawksley is hoping whatever they can do will be enough.
As the blazing berserker continues to brutally batter the beauty out of the British babe, bells begin blaring - not just the bell to signal that the match has been deemed over, but the ones indicating that an excessive amount of smoke has been detected and that the building should be under evacuation.
<< Your winner... Junko Daidouji! >>
The restrained enthusiasm of the announcer over the arena's P.A. system up above is at odds with the anarchic sight below.
Coco is beyond offering any answer to the burning questions that the miko presents to her, no matter how loudly she screams. Nor is she conscious for Hawksley's concern as he climbs over the wreckage toward her.
TOM: "For those ladies, gentlemen, and other friends still here with us, please join myself and Lou in making a calm and collected egress toward the indicated exits! Don't worry, we'll be back on in roughly an hour or so with the next match!"
LOU: "Yeah, turns out we got about two dozen of these rings backstage. Guess they had to stock up when they had the likes of Mike Haggar hitting spinning piledrivers every night. And our team of professionals has already been on standby in expectation that this might happen!"
TOM: "Not 'expectation,' Lou. 'Just in case.'"
LOU: "Sure, if that's what we're going with. Ow! Stray cinder. Jeez, that smarts."
The scene that greets the Irishman as he pushes through the smoke and ash-laden sprinkler water is a gruesome one. Both girls are battered and bloody, their exposed skin covered with bruises and burns. Coco has been reduced down to a few measly scraps of burnt cloth leaving her wounds and pretty much everything else out in the open. By contrast, the miko still has her modesty intact, if only just, a damp sarashi wound round her chest and the half-burnt pair of hakama clinging to the girl's pale skin.
At the approach of a new source of heat, Junko's fist pauses on the backswing as she winds up for another punch into the unconscious Brit's smashed face. The girl's hair is plastered to her face and back by the torrential downpour from the emergency sprinkler system, the snowy white bangs hiding the hellish glow of her eyes until she lifts her gaze to regard the interloper.
She barely looks human. Dark crimson blood stains the front of the miko's face to such a degree that the girl looks like some sort of demon that has been gorging itself on her opponent's flesh. It covers her nose and lips, still fresh and yet already dried and burnt from the overwhelming heat pouring off the fire priestess. Though Suzaku's power had given her a burst of regenerative energy in response to the trauma of Coco's viscous assault, her hands are still little more than burnt blackened claws. The surface of her knuckles are all but drenched with fresh vital fluids, the dark red blood making her charred skin glisten with coagulating viscera.
Junko's eyes swirl with molten fury like twin pools of churning magma around the dark centers of her pupils. She stares at Hawksley with silent seething fury, her lips still twisted in a dark grimace of pain and unholy rage, seeming only barely able to control herself from lashing out at him as well.
His attempts to console her foe fall on deaf ears. The battered girl grins at him, flashing perfect teeth stained with her own blood. The obvious distress in his voice and mannerisms sends ripples of smug satisfaction down her spine. Something deep and primal revels in the pain and anguish she has caused. The screams of the crowd, the palpable sense of dread in the air as people flee her scarlet fire is intoxicating.
Fools! They had come to stare and gawk at her like some kind of caged animal trained to dance for their amusement. Were they not entertained?
Planting a palm on Coco's chest, the miko pushes slowly to her feet and steps away from the fallen teenager. With slow deliberate strides on bare burned feet she steps up to Hawksley, stopping only a few feet away. Even with the cool water raining down on them the temperature in Junko's immediate vicinity is intense, like standing too close to a raging bonfire. Thin wisps of steam waft up around her in a faint cloud, the water literally evaporating upon contact with her skin in an aura of hazy mist that further adds to her unnatural appearance.
"Another gaijin," she says, regarding him dismissively. Though her eyes are dead, they still manage to convey a look of contempt as she cocks her head at him nonchalantly. "Come to collect the refuse, have you?"
The miko's gaze sweeps around slowly, as if taking in the destruction around her for the first time. Not that she can see it directly. The raging flames still burning despite the various efforts to extinguish her supernatural conflagration are all she needs, though.
"Hope you brought a big broom."
She smirks at him, wiping at the gore on her mouth with the back of an arm. The effort smears blood all over the paper talismans and more or less just makes an even bigger mess of her face.
"Looks like I made a bit of mess..."
Her eyes flick sideways towards Coco's prone form and she shrugs lazily.
"Well, an even bigger mess, in her case."
Normally, it's hard for Chevy to pay attention to fights in such a venue -- there's so many other things to watch or pay attention to. But Chevy has a particular interest in these two fighters. She might not particularly wish ill upon Coco -- but she doesn't seem to mind if she takes her lumps right up and until that bell, for reasons obvious to any of her own "Chevaliers." She was also.. curious to see how Junko would fare.
This attention came at the cost of paying attention to, well, literally everything else. She's already used to blocking out Tom and Lou during a fight -- as much as she enjoys them on their own, it's too hard to hear them from inside the arena, and they'd likely botch up her moves if she -did- hear them. But ... the carnage that had unfolded? The mass panic, the chaos...? It's all just... white noise to her.
At least, until a familiar Irishman walks past, vaulting over the ropes with due haste.
She shudders as she breaks out of her trance. Her breath crystallizes instantly in a cloud before her. And then she realizes that, in contrast to the rest of the arena, the chilled people seated near her might not be in so much of a hurry to leave. And -- oh yes, that -was- an announcement that came over the speakers, wasn't it?
Chevy hops to her feet, helping to usher people along. "C'mon, y'all... let's clear out so the folks can get ready for the next fight..."
Slowly, but surely, the helpful Thunder teammate starts to make her way to ringside. Just in time to hear Junko's sass talking -- which actually draws a lowered brow and a frown from the normally cheerful hayseed.
She coughs, to clear her throat, still standing outside the ring.
"Hey, congratulations on your win, Junko!"
Chevy glances over at Hawksley -- estimating that he'd probably notice her blue-eyed gaze more than the firebrand. She flashes him a half-smile -- with a tinge of apology. She casts her voice to him -- a little more quietly. "Y'all take good care of 'er, okay? Lemme know how she's doin'..."
The hayseed may not be on the greatest terms with Coco, but she still has some concern for her well-being. Enough that... well, she turns her attention back to Junko. She may have shed some clothes -- but she does sound like she's getting a bit big for those britches. The battle's over -- the best she can do is to help convince Junko to take a break.
"C'mon, girl, let's mozy on outta here. I think you done earned yourself a slice of strawberry shortcake, at the very least...!" She smiles, hoping that the emotion carries through her voice even if Junko can't see her face. "My treat."
Hawksley's words of comfort to Coco are met with silence. At least by her. The girl who put her in this sorry state has plenty to say for herself. The vitriol pours from her as naturally as the violence did.
He turns to look at Junko, finding himself fascinated by her face. It's like something from a nightmare and he has to force himself to fix his dark eyes on her own. From what he understands the girl is partially sighted and yet she seemed to seek him out, sensing his presence close by, even before he spoke.
He peels off the t-shirt he's wearing, about to place it on Coco to at least preserve some of her modesty when he wonders if it will make things worse. Perhaps the fabric will stick to her scorched flesh. Instead the Irishman uses it to wipe his own brow, before discarding it on the floor.
Against his better judgement, Hawskley takes in the rest of Junko's appearance, horrified by the hellish vision he observes. To think he'd thought the worst thing this cruel creature could do is burn down his favourite bar. Now what he faces losing is far worse.
She has the audicity to use Coco to help her find her feet and then she's stepping into his space, spitting out her wicked words his way.
Gaijin he can handle, the miko's insults about the injured woman, less so. "Why don't you shut your fecking mouth, little girl?" he advises the aggressor, his accent sounding even stronger than usual with his rage. He's about to say more when the congratulations come from the friendly source of Chevy and he fixes his attention there instead.
"Don't you worry about Coco, that's my job. You just get her out of here" he suggests, gesturing towards Junko. "Maybe not back to The Thunderdome though. I don't think Ichika would thank you for it."
He lets out a cynical sounding laugh at the redhead's suggestion of strawberry shortcake. "You know you shouldn't spoil children, Chevy. Especially when they've been badly behaved."
It's perhaps a blessing that the medical team show up at that point carrying a stretcher, which they very slowly lift Coco on to, being delicate so they don't risk causing her any further damage. The Irish fella insists on following behind, accompanying her to wherever the destination may be, but he can't resist a parting shot at Junko en route.
"You better pray that Ayala or Kenzo beat your arse down in the next round" he threatens, jabbing his finger in her direction. "Because you really don't wanna have to face me."
Of course there's the by no means small matter of him having to get past Nixie and Djamila or Genie first.
A dark expression takes over the miko's face at Hawksley furious retort. The lazy mirth vanishes in the downpour as if her bloody visage is a painting being slowly distorted into something far less pleasant. Her head hilts forward slightly, obscuring her eyes beneath the shadow of her soggy bangs. Half-closing in a predatory stare, those twin pools of fiery rage smolder in the haze of steam as the girl's ire starts to rise once more.
Junko's fingers slowly clench into tight fists, the burned waxy flesh still intact enough to respond to her instinctive commands. Battered, bloody, and barely able to stand, she still looks more than ready and willing to answer the Irishman's outrage with a fiery retort of her own.
"Why don't you fecking come and mak-"
The miko's mocking reply is cut off by the sudden deliberate interruption of another voice. A flash of annoyance crosses her face for a moment as she turns to glower at the person who would dare insert themselves into her business. But as she takes in this new source of heat and the familiar distortion around it from the aura of chilling mist her expression becomes one of faint surprise.
She looks at the water-bender for a long silent moment, expression inscrutable. Her gaze slides sideways to regard the Irishman once more, giving him a contemplative sidelong stare as if deciding whether or not he's worth the bother.
After several strained seconds, she comes to a conclusion. The tension slowly bleeds out of Junko's body as she turns away from Hawksley, her fists relaxing into loose blackened claws at her side. The aura of sweltering heat surrounding the miko steadily begins to wane, dropping down to something relatively tolerable as Suzaku's power ebbs back into dark slumber. But, even as the rush of adrenaline and malice drains away, there is enough of the twisted god's influence left to cast one last fireball into the kindling.
"Prayer will not save you, gaijin."
With those ominous parting words, Junko makes her way towards the edge of the ring where her teammate awaits. The damn ropes that had vexed her so much upon her entry into the arena have fortunately been incinerated allowing the teen to casually, if painfully, lower herself from the edge down to the floor.
By the time her feet touch the ground most of her remaining strength has evaporated, replaced by the post-battle agony of the myriad injuries she'd sustained. Leaning heavily on the stage, a hand gingerly goes to her face, touching her busted nose as if only now just noticing it for the first time. The sticky remains of her congealed blood creates a disgusting bridge between the girl's fingers and face as she pulls them away, staring at them with a look of confusion.
"Chevy-san...? I-I think... I'm bleeding."
Chevy draws in her breath.
Small, faint crystals of frost begin to funnel around her.
"That's why ah'm here, Hawksley. Was a close fight -- and it's over now."
Her tone brooks no real disagreement.
Junko had been hauled off from one fight kicking and screaming. She was unconscious at the end of the other two. So this is probably an awkward and terrifying experience for the firebrand -- what happens -now?- There's a good chance that Chevy's going to need to talk with Junko about how to avoid being a sore winner, now. But that's a conversation for later.
Should she be -congratulating- someone who continued pummeling her opponent after she'd fallen? Should the two from Team Thunder go back to the Thunderdome? Should she be offering strawberry shortcake to someone so patently undeserving of such? The waterbender flinches, as each shot is fired her way. Tough questions -- questions she hadn't considered when she made those first steps to defuse the ticking time bomb named Junko. She doesn't have many ways to reach the girl -- and she did what she could to make sure that bomb didn't explode yet again. So, even if she'd had the chance to do it over with the knowledge of what Hawksley -did- say, she wouldn't have changed her mind in the slightest. Miss Beaumont had her priorities.
There's more in play here than just rivalry. There's an entire arena full of people being ushered for the exits, for one. And of course, Coco's tenuous state of survival. Chevy might not be on the best of terms with Miss Coalbridge but she wouldn't wish harm or illness upon her.
Well, *further* harm or illness, at least.
Hawksley can judge her methods all he likes -- but he doesn't know the full situation. She could try to play to his sympathies -- to call back to the fear and uncertainty -he- felt when he'd first burned down the barn. To connect with his feeling of -powerless- at that moment, his -fear- at discovering what his awakening powers had wrought. But trying to make that connection would be a stretch in an empty room, let alone in the middle of an arena that's in the midst of evacuation procedures.
Hawksley and Junko have laid down a minefield for her in the arena. She may have flinched -- but with an intake of breath, she weathers the attacks with a patient nod. The criticisms are deserved.
But Chevy's deliberate in staying outside that arena. She reaches up with frosty hands -- far paler than her usual freckled skin tone -- to the blood-spattered Junko. If Junko steps to the arena's side, the hog-wrestler from Farmville will do everything she can to help the miko down safely -- and comfort her with the cooler air and her chilled but reassuring touch.
So Junko is bleeding. Maybe not as much as Coco is, though. And neither stands a chance of getting better until the two are properly separated. Whatever business she and Hawksley would need to discuss -- she's certain they can hash that out later.
"Yeah, honey," is her answer to Junko, "you sure are. C'mon, let's get you all tidied up."
Log created on 14:33:01 11/02/2023 by Junko, and last modified on 11:51:43 11/07/2023.